This is the first post of a series from Myanmar.
I travelled to Myanmar in December 2016 with a couple of friends. I had never been to Southeast Asia so I didn’t have any basis for comparison, but as our guide Chit from Inle would repeatedly tell us, Myanmar shows you “the real life.”
Here’s the itinerary we followed:
- Yangon (1.5 days) – December 11th until December 13th
- Bagan (3 days) – December 13th until December 15th
- Mandalay (2 days) – December 15th until December 17th
- Kalaw (1.5 days) – December 17th until December 18th
- Lac Inle (2 days) – December 18th until December 21st
- Yangon – 21st
On the map, it looks like this:
With only 10 days on our hands, we decided to travel by plane and flew with both Air KBZ and Asian Wings Air. Flying in Myanmar is an awesome experience: you show up 30 minutes before your flight and a few minutes later you’re flying over beautiful landscapes. It’s all peaceful up there and you get to your destination in 30 minutes to an hour, depending on where you’re flying to.
We were originally flying from Paris, stopped in Dubai, and a few hours later found ourselves in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar and the capital of Yangon Region.
Walking in Yangon
Yangon is the country’s largest city with a population of nearly six million. The military government isn’t there anymore as it officially relocated the capital to the newly built city of Naypyidaw, north of Yangon, in March 2006.
The pictures that follow were mostly taken in the ex-colonial part of Yangon:
After a 15-hour flight, we were in Yangon. We stopped briefly at the hotel to shower before starting to explore the city.
While the average capita income in Myanmar is $702 a year, and poverty is extremely high, you find that everyone in cities has a tablet or a smartphone. Surprisingly as well, telecom companies don’t restrict your access to the internet: all websites would work and we never needed a VPN. 3G coverage was also particularly good with Telenor or Ooredoo.
Everywhere we went, people were friendly, always smiling. As a Westerner, you can be a bit puzzled when people are extremely kind to you, immediately wondering if you should somehow give back. But over there, people are not looking for your money: they’re just as curious about you as you are about them.
You get to see a lot of unexpected things, like these two guys who would jump synchronously from a block to another.
At night (or say, from 5pm), there are still many markets selling street food.
One thing you do see a lot in Myanmar, it’s the pagodas. A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, built in traditions originating as stupa in historic South Asia and further developed in East Asia or with respect to those traditions, common to Nepal, India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia. (Wikipedia)
When you get into a pagoda you get to see a few gigantic buddhas. The modern pagoda is an evolution of the stupa (smaller and you can get into them), which originated in Ancient India. At night in Yangon, pagodas illuminate the city.
The following day, we kept exploring Yangon.
Kids from Yangon
Thousands of monks
Early in the morning, monks get a bowl of rice. They all line up, waiting to be served.
Monks from the Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. These relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama. (Wikipedia)
Young monks from Yangon
Young nuns dress in pink. In the following pictures, they gathered for lunch time, very quietly without any adults telling them what to do. Their meal was just white rice. It was harmonious and peaceful, but they were all wondering why my friends and I were around.
After a few minutes, they started to smile at us and let me take their photograph.
We then went to Kandawgyi Park, walking on this lovely wooden walkways above the lake.
A bit further, a chinlone game. The point of chinlone is to keep the ball from hitting the ground, all the while passing it back and forth as creatively as possible. The ball used is made from handwoven rattan, which sounds like a basket when hit.
Here’s a slo-mo that shows how high players have to go to score:
The next step in our trip was Bagan; follow this link to see more!